Tuesday, July 31, 2012

 Week 12
A Lush North Carolina Summer
We got a break from the rain, and the soil was dry enough to prepare for part of the fall planting.  The rain is wonderful; the vegetables are growing well and the grass is still green.  I love it when North Carolina is lush and green.  William and I are very thankful for that. It is so much better to have a green problem than a dry, brown problem.   However, we need a few dry days at a time for sucessful. Half dry and half wet would be spectacular! 
We are getting geared up for the fall planting of vegetables.  CSA members will get to enjoy some of the crops like lettuce, arugula, and hopefully radishes in late September.  More crops like head lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard will be ready for harvest in October.

This week’s harvest:
Eggplant- Large shares only.  Beautiful long, skinny Asian eggplant called “Pingtung.”  Asian eggplants are always tender and never have a bitter flavor. You do not need to soak in saltwater.  I like to chop and steam or boil the eggplant for about 8 minutes and then add the mostly cooked pieces of eggplant to a saut√© pan with other veggies like onions, peppers, tomatoes to blend the flavors.   Try the Summer Eggplant and Sweet Pepper Bake if you haven’t yet.  Recipe below. 
Tomatoes-The tomato harvest continues!  The season is short but sweet.  Try all the different colors and sizes, each one is a different variety.
Cherry Tomatoes-Some of the most flavorful tomatoes are the little ones.  Try them sliced in half with basil and chopped cucumbers.
Green Peppers-Pepper harvest continues to go well.  The peppers are larger and larger each week with nice thick walls. We hope their strong growth continues and we have ripe peppers in August…although it needs to stop raining for the peppers to ripen!
Cucumbers-The heat and rain is slowing them down.  We do have a young crop of plants that will start producing more next week.  It is unusual to have a successful crop coming into production this late in the summer due to disease pressure from hot, humid conditions.  Enjoy the bounty this year!
Squash/zucchini-See the note on cucumbers.  When the plants are happy the produce, when they are sad-not much fruit.  But there is more coming!
Heirloom garlic- garlic and tomatoes, I can’t get enough!
 Basil-Oh the wonderful scent of basil.  I love harvesting it for you all.


Sweet Basil, Tomato, and Summer Peach Salsa
1.      Mix equal parts chopped slicing tomatoes and chopped fresh peaches in non-reactive bowl. (no metal bowls, they can make it taste funny) 
2.      Finely chop approximately 4 big leaves of basil or 8 small leaves of basil for every peach that you use.
3.      Measure out approximately ½ teaspoon lime juice for every peach that you use. 
4.     Sprinkle basil and lime juice over tomatoes and peaches. Add salt to taste.  Let salsa rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Keeps about 2 days in the fridge.

Try the eggplant recipe! At the very least, let it inspire you to find another recipe with eggplant.
Baked Eggplant with Sweet Peppers and Rice
Hearty and comforting, baked eggplants in a casserole are a pleasing late summer dish.

1 eggplant (about 1 or 1.25 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
1 large sweet red pepper or 4 small ones, diced
1 cup cooked rice
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Oregano,  1 tablespoon dried or 2 tablespoons fresh,  crumbled or chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped fine
12 basil leaves, chopped
Freshly ground pepper
1 egg, well beaten
Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Cube the eggplant and steam for 12-15 minutes.  Meanwhile saute the onion and red peppers in the butter until soft.  Gently mix the eggplant, onion, red pepper, rice, and tomatoes, herbs, and egg together. Add salt and pepper to preference.  Spoon into a buttered baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Add grated Parmesan if you’d like. 
 We like to serve spiced lentils with this dish to provide protein for a balanced meal without meat.

Roasted Pepper Spread
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 medium bell or sweet peppers, roasted and chopped roughly (see below)
8 ounces Neufchatel reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 can chickpeas, 15 oz, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon miso (you can find it at Nature’s Bounty. Maybe Ingles? If you want to substitute it try tahini and salt instead)
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
Minced parsley
Mince garlic in food processor. With the motor running, add each ingredient until smooth. Garnish with minced parsley.

Adapted from Passionate Vegetarian, 2002.

Roasted peppers
Make your own roasted peppers: Roasting peppers is simple. I like to do it 2 different ways for 2 different results.

Roast and peel version:  You may roast chopped peppers or char and blacken the entire chile or pepper with intense heat or direct flame. That means you can roast a sweet bell, poblano, chile, pepper, jalepeno or anything else with a gas grill, charcoal grill, gas stove range, electric or gas broiler. Here’s a quick way to knock out a batch of whole roasted peppers. Place the peppers or chiles with stems on a very hot grill or put the peppers or chiles on a baking sheet under a preheated broiler until the skin blisters slightly and is black in spots, about 5 minutes on each of two sides. Place in a large bowl with a towel over it until cool enough to handle; this steams the skin off. Peel most of the skin off. Don’t rinse the flavor away! Use a paper towel if needed to help pull the skin off! The freshly roasted peppers keep well and can then be used for days in many dishes. Or freeze for the winter.

Caramelized version:  Chop into half inch stips, place on a baking sheet, and roast at 275 F for about 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. The longer they cook, the more the peppers will caramelize. I like to make sure that I throw something else in the oven if I am heating the oven up…more food coming out of oven makes the heat in my kitchen tolerable during the heat of the summer.

Freezer tip: Make sure to use a “freezer” bag, not a “storage” bag if freezing the peppers.

Rustic Ciabatta Pizza
This late summer rustic pizza owes its style to the rich flavors of late summer, the days the vegetables have spent soaking up the sun- their personality blends so well with ciabatta bread and olive oil.
3-4 small ciabatta loaves or 1 large loaf
Shredded mozzarella or feta
Olive oil
Sea salt
***the ratio of the vegetables depends on everyone’s personal tastes***
Cut eggplant into thin rounds or coins and spread very thinly across a baking pan. Brush lightly with olive oil. Chop peppers roughly into pieces and spread across a baking pan. Place both pans into a 350 F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the tomato and sprinkle with sea salt. Chop the basil. Slice ciabatta in half and brush with olive oil. (this is your pizza “crust”).  With some thick ciabatta, you can cut a thick loaf into 3 thin crusts. Layer eggplant, pepper, tomato, basil on ciabatta halves. Top with cheese and basil and bake in the 350F for 12 minutes.

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